Friday, March 15, 2013

Fossil Angel Harmonies

Okay, it's looking like I'm not the riddlesmith I thought I was.  My original idea was to put all the explanatory stuff below into the previous post, but then I tried to be too tricksy for my own good.  :-)

Answer time.  Who was my haiku describing?

left at the crossroads
by science, she takes a right
and calls herself art

She is magic.  And she seems to be in real need of some adaptability...

When I was traveling last week, I finally settled down to read an 11,000 word essay that has been circulating on the interwebs for a few years.  In 2002, famed, crazy-bearded graphic novelist Alan Moore wrote Fossil Angels, a poetic, polyphonic polemic about many things, but mostly about how the modern "occult" community has made itself irrelevant by tying itself too tightly to nostalgia and empty ritualism.

(There's a "modern occult community," you say?  They're not huge, but yes...)

Moore's suggestion?  A bit too gleefully, he suggests that "What this place could do with is a good insurance fire."  Let all that crusty magical tradition and OCD-ish superstition burn itself out, he says, so that the resulting black loam of raw ideas can recombine in a new kind of natural selection (super-natural selection?) to form something new and vibrant.

That something new, he suggests, should look more like ART than like religion or science...
"Art’s only aim can be to lucidly express the human mind and heart and soul in all their countless variations, thus to further human culture’s artful understanding of the universe and of itself, its growth towards the light. Art’s method is whatever can be even distantly imagined. These parameters of purpose and procedure are sufficiently elastic, surely, to allow inclusion of magic’s most radical or most conservative agendas? Vital and progressive occultism, beautifully expressed, that has no obligation to explain or justify itself. Each thought, each line, each image made exquisite for no other purpose than that they be offerings worthy of the gods, of art, of magic itself."
It's ironic that modern-day magic (which is all about transformation and polymorphous change) has fallen behind in adapting to our current circumstances and knowledge.  Science and technology took over many roles that used to be filled by a more magical way of thinking, leaving it at the crossroads of irrelevancy.  Turning itself into art may be just the amrita it needs...

I'll give you two other quotes for flavor, but, if it's your Will, feel free to read the whole thing!  :-)
"If magic were regarded as an art it would have culturally valid access to the infrascape, the endless immaterial territories that are ignored by and invisible to Science, that are to scientific reason inaccessible, and thus comprise magic's most natural terrain. Turning its efforts to creative exploration of humanity's interior space might also be of massive human use, might possibly restore to magic all the relevance and purpose, the demonstrable utility that it has lacked so woefully, and for so long. Seen as an art, the field could still produce the reams of speculative theory that it is so fond of (after all, philosophy and rhetoric may be as easily considered arts as sciences), just so long as it were written beautifully or interestingly. While, for example, The Book of the Law may be debatable in value when considered purely as prophetic text describing actual occurrences or states of mind to come, it cannot be denied that it's a shit-hot piece of writing, which deserves to be revered as such."
"We could make this parched terrain a teeming paradise, a tropic where each thought might blossom into art. Under the altar lies the studio, the beach. We could insist upon it, were we truly what we say we are. We could achieve it not by scrawling sigils but by crafting stories, paintings, symphonies. We could allow our art to spread its holy psychedelic scarab wings across society once more, perhaps in doing so allow some light or grace to fall upon that pained, benighted organism. We could be made afresh in our fresh undergrowth, stand reinvented at a true dawn of our Craft within a morning world, our paint still wet, just-hatched and gummy-eyed in Eden. Newborn in Creation."
I can add nothing.


  1. Oh, now that was tough, dude. The only way I would've come up with that answer is if I'd read that essay. Very clever, though.

    My mother was into the occult. Even had a crystal ball and tarot cards and all that stuff. And a LOT of semi-freaky unusual books.

    1. Yeah, I didn't think through the riddle aspect of this very much, did I...? :-)

      Semi-freaky unusual books are all you'll find on my shelves!

  2. Oh, now that is clever! I took the personification too literally to get it. Nicely done.

    1. Hmm, who would she be if she had to be a person? Hermione Granger? :-)

    2. I was too literal all around. Marie Curie was my first guess but I couldn't make her fit.

      For the record, I think it's a fine riddle. Once you know the answer, it makes perfect sense.

  3. 'Let all that crusty magical tradition and OCD-ish superstition burn itself out, he says, so that the resulting black loam of raw ideas can recombine in a new kind of natural selection (super-natural selection?) to form something new and vibrant.'

    I absolutely adore this. And, 'gummy-eyed in Eden.'

    In fact, this entire post makes me rethink the final week of Tiny Harmonies.

    1. Moore's essay was a fun read for me, but it's also got a huge number of "inside baseball" references to the occult scene in there. Still, I'd recommend at least scanning through it.

      Always glad to throw monkey wrenches into the works...

  4. wow. Thanks for this new look at some wild possibilities.

  5. Didn't mean to cheat by arriving late but glad I got here: very very interesting. Very!

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Kerry and Lisa!